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Liberation and autocracy: The case of Russian higher education

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Abstract:

To date Russian universities have failed to implement contemporary reform ideas that aim to empower students. It is difficult to discover why: Russia is too often either an ’other’ (strange, poorly understood and rarely studied in comparative higher education) or constitutes itself as ’different’ (not to be understood, maintaining its own traditions, large enough to make its own way). This paper seeks to explain Russian antipathy to classroom/curriculum change by placing Russian higher education for the first time into a comparative European context. As a consequence of this analysis, I argue that these changes are unlikely to occur: indeed, that basic student freedoms would undermine a Russian status quo or power relationship formed in the Stalinist period between state and universities that still exists today and that even uses a liberatory discourse to sustain itself.

Using intellectual history (a history of the power relations between state and higher education sector, and the methods of control to maintain those relations utilised by the Russian state), I will show that there was a liberatory discourse deriving from Marxism in the Leninist period which was then augmented and formed into a mechanism of control under Stalin. This mechanism appropriated academia into an apparent collusory relationship with the state: a relationship in which freedoms of curriculum, classroom and even academic speech are freely given up, thereby forming an extreme autocratic variant within European higher education. I will then show that this approach still exists today (based on 74 interviews with Russian academics and commentators, and a review of contemporary Russian publications on higher education). As a consequence, the state and secondarily the academic (as an arm of the state) have the function to ’liberate’ the student (liberation still as a control mechanism): the student cannot, and should not pursue their own empowerment.
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Name: 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society
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http://www.cies.us


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p504112_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Howlett, Sophie. "Liberation and autocracy: The case of Russian higher education" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Apr 30, 2011 <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p504112_index.html>

APA Citation:

Howlett, S. , 2011-04-30 "Liberation and autocracy: The case of Russian higher education" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p504112_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: To date Russian universities have failed to implement contemporary reform ideas that aim to empower students. It is difficult to discover why: Russia is too often either an ’other’ (strange, poorly understood and rarely studied in comparative higher education) or constitutes itself as ’different’ (not to be understood, maintaining its own traditions, large enough to make its own way). This paper seeks to explain Russian antipathy to classroom/curriculum change by placing Russian higher education for the first time into a comparative European context. As a consequence of this analysis, I argue that these changes are unlikely to occur: indeed, that basic student freedoms would undermine a Russian status quo or power relationship formed in the Stalinist period between state and universities that still exists today and that even uses a liberatory discourse to sustain itself.

Using intellectual history (a history of the power relations between state and higher education sector, and the methods of control to maintain those relations utilised by the Russian state), I will show that there was a liberatory discourse deriving from Marxism in the Leninist period which was then augmented and formed into a mechanism of control under Stalin. This mechanism appropriated academia into an apparent collusory relationship with the state: a relationship in which freedoms of curriculum, classroom and even academic speech are freely given up, thereby forming an extreme autocratic variant within European higher education. I will then show that this approach still exists today (based on 74 interviews with Russian academics and commentators, and a review of contemporary Russian publications on higher education). As a consequence, the state and secondarily the academic (as an arm of the state) have the function to ’liberate’ the student (liberation still as a control mechanism): the student cannot, and should not pursue their own empowerment.


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